But also the Mural Capital of the World. Yup, the whole world.
As we started traveling around the city, it seemed like everywhere we went, there were walls covered with murals.
What better way to see them but by tour! The tour only offers a section of the city per tour, wanna know why?
Well, it is the Mural Capital of the World!! Ok, just playing with you some, but that is why. There are over 3000 indoor and outdoor murals throughout Philly.
The tour they offered the day we could go was the Broad Street tour. It covered, if I have my bearings right, Center City and South Philly. We saw sections I would not have felt very comfortable going to on our own, but what a great way to see more of Philly and get the stories behind the art.
The project began in 1984 as a part of an anti-graffiti initiative. This program approached the graffiti artist and provided an outlet for them to turn their art into something positive rather than the negative aspects of graffiti.
As The Man and I listened, I was amazed how, on many of the streets we traveled, the murals overshadowed the gloom of the neighborhoods. There would be a block after block of slums, and then a wonderful mural depicting a message of hope or success or paying tribute. Old architecture, painted expressions in bright colors and the wear and tear of time.
The cost and time dedicated to the project is amazing. Some murals took years just to get approved. Neighbors have to agree to what will be painted, money raised, volunteers gathered.
I loved the colors in this one:
This one hovers over a spot of land that once held a green space, a community garden I believe. It was bought and turned into a parking lot – gee, that makes a song come to mind! The guide commented on the colors, having us note the grey background, representing the pavement. The cost of this mural was between $18,000-$20,000. The investment being made by this organization to add beauty to the city and also tell its stories is amazing.
Several added layers and extended away from the building it was painted on…
These murals, side by side buildings represent too opposing sides – victims and those that perpetrated the crime against them. The goal had originally been to bring the sides to some kind of reconciliation and have one mural, but with so many emotions and expectations, that was not possible.
Many of the murals contain the faces of those that lived or worked in the neighborhood.
The young lady in the middle is now a 24 year old college student…
Along the way there was one little shop that we were unable to get a picture of. Now covered with a mural of a beautiful Japanese Garden, the store at one time was an ice cream shop. The owner wanted the Organization to add a mural, and she wanted an ice cream cone. The neighboring residents were adamant – they did not want an ice cream mural. The shop owner had attempted many times to paint her own mural, but each time the neighbors would come out and throw rocks at her. After selling the building, the new owner and neighbors agreed to have a garden painted, and have named it the “Japanese Rock Garden” for the times that rocks had been thrown over the issue.
If we get a chance to go back to Philly to visit Traveler, I hope to go on another tour. One of the Northern section of the city, to hear the stories behind those scenes. And if YOU get to be in the area in the Fall, the Mural group has a planned an interactive public art installation on the Schuylkill River. There will be orbs of light lining the river walk way and scatted on the water, that will change colors “transforming the river into a flickering constellation of colored lights.” Might be fun to see.